Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Chance of Marriage? Proposal in Assembly

The prospects of same-sex marriage in New York just got real this week, as Democratic Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell introduced Assembly bill 7600, which "relates to individuals ability to marry."
This is the same bill that he introduced last session and passed his chamber with 89 votes, before failing in the Senate by a vote of 38 to 24.
If adopted into law the proposal would amend the domestic relations law to allow same-sex couples the same opportunity to enter into civil marriages as opposite-sex couples. Additionally, it ensures that no member of the clergy can be compelled to perform any marriage ceremonies.
This measure comes on the heels of a report from the IDC, which laid out the economic case for same-sex marriage. Their summary was:
Recognizing marriage between same sex partners in New York State would create $310,567,652 in increased revenue and economic activity during the next three years, with potential savings of $80,848,457.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Cuomo 2014

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's reelection campaign for 2014 was formally announced via mousepad, pen and notepad (courtesy of Capital Tonight) on Friday night at Proctors Theater in Schenectady. Cuomo was in town for the Democratic Rural Conference's two-day Convention.
Guests of the Convention were given these parting gifts, which were imprinted with the words "Cuomo 2014." The governor did not address this fact during his opening remarks at the Convention. In fact, DRC members had national aspirations for him after he spoke.
The immediate reaction from one DRC member to the speech was, "Thank you President Cuomo," as a more subdued member suggested the governor would win that title in 2016.
Cuomo was championed as the "son" of the DRC, which endorsed him in 2002 when he tried to secure the Democratic nomination for governor. The governor embraced their strong past and said, "You can call me a son of the DRC anytime... I was born from the DRC. The DRC was very good to me early on ... and more importantly they were with me in bad days."
After briefly doing a victory lap on the passage of an on-time budget, Cuomo turned to the economic revitalization of upstate New York. He talked about economic development for this troubled region, but opted not to talk about the heretofore secret Regional Economic Development Councils that are supposed to be a part of upstate's recovery.
Instead, Cuomo seemed to focus more on protecting his flank, as he laid out his vision for New York to become a leading progressive state. This message felt like a response to critics who alleged that his budget was too fiscally conservative. Refuting that belief, the governor stressed the government's role in helping people and waxed on about the state's potential to be a leader on civil rights.
"We led the way and we're going to do it again," Cuomo said, as he promised the state would be the progressive capital for women's rights, reproductive rights, environmental rights and marriage equality.

"I'm talking about a glass of beer."

It will be easier to watch a movie and drink a beer if Republican Senator Carl Marcellino gets his way.
Marcellino has a proposal (SB 4722) that makes it easier for restaurants that show movies to sell beer. Unfortunately these theaters need an entire menu, so the Nachos and candy at Regal Cinemas wouldn't count.
Sure it's not ideal, but incremental change is sometimes the way to go when your dream is watch the third batman movie in 2012 with blue moon.
At the 48 second mark, John Travolta describes the wonder of ordering a glass of beer at the movie theater in Europe.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Senate Pushes on the Gas

A proposed Gas Tax Holiday will be considered by the Senate Investigations & Government Operations Committee on Tuesday.
The legislation comes at a time as regular gas exceeds $4 per gallon in the capital region and suggests 33 cents of state taxes per gallon during the busy four-day Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day holiday weekends.
The senate proposal (SB 4800) was introduced by Senator Greg Ball on Thursday and almost immediately received a committee assignment, which indicates that it will likely be fast tracked through the chamber. This is likely to be contrasted by the soon-to-be introduced version from Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, whose bill will probably never even come up for a committee vote.
The bill's memorandum makes a strangely emotional plea for its enactment:
New York prides itself on the colorful diversity of vacation spots throughout the state. Whether it's camping in the Adirondacks, going to the Saratoga Race Track, hitting the beaches in Coney Island, seeing a show on Broadway or touring the grape growing regions of central and western New York, as a state we have so much to offer.

It will be interesting to see if the practice of "speculation" is ever addressed in this debate in the New York State Legislature, since that is the real culprit for our artificially high gas prices. The practice of speculation receives a passing reference in the bill memo, but it is immediately disregarded as immaterial.

Constitutionally OK!

A paperless proposal from Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, has gotten the big thumbs up from Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Schneiderman said the amendment from Tedisco would not impact any other parts of the constitution, which means it is acceptable.
His official opinion has been sent to the Assembly Judiciary committee, in addition to an opinion on a similar bill from Democratic Assemblywoman Sandy Galef.
Not clear whether this means Tedisco's proposal will fly through the Assembly, but it can't hurt.

Here is the opinion:
AG Opinion

Monday, April 25, 2011

No NYC OTB? No Problem

No private employee gets a do-over on history if their company fails and their retirement plans disappear, but that is what the NYS Legislature is considering for employees of the defunct NYC OTB.
Introduced by Democratic Assemblyman Peter Abbate and the Rules Committee, which means the Republicans, in the Senate, this proposal would require the state to maintain the health insurance and supplemental benefits promised by retirees of the New York City Off-Track Betting Corporation.
The memorandum for this proposal argues that the state made certain promises to employees of the NYC OTB, which the state is now obligated to ensure.
It was indeed part of the quid pro quo for their employment. Upon closure, the promise was broken, resulting in severe financial hardship and even more, important, danger to the health and lives of NYCOTB retirees and their dependants.

The state of New York should honor its commitment to protect the welfare of these former public employees and restore the health insurance and supplemental benefits of current and future NYCOTB retirees. Any annual cost associated with the bill will diminish with the passage of time and must be balanced against additional cost the state would occur should these individuals need to secure other public benefits.

Interestingly, while the memo recognizes there will be costs, it concludes that the fiscal implications are not available.
This bill seems natural for the Assembly, where it has sat for a month, but its introduction three weeks ago in the Senate is a bit of surprise. Maybe it is remorse or guilt on the part of Senate Republicans who wouldn't keep the NYC OTB?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Line-Item Vetoes to Aid to Localities Budget

Ignoring the fact that this is happening almost two weeks after the budget was due, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced 22 line item vetoes to the Aid to Localities portion of the budget (SB 2803), with cuts coming to seniors, education, health and housing.
The first 14 impact the Office of Aging, with a couple cuts to transportation programs and the elimination of a $1 million pilot program for geriatric in-home
medical care initiatives that included in-home visits and consultation by physicians.
The cuts to education are more substantial, with $24 million to higher education opportunity program funds removed and $19 million struck out that was designated for the Science and Technology Entry Program and the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program.
Cuomo's veto message argues that these two allotments of money represent unconstitutional changes to his original budget. He cites the now infamous Silver v. Pataki case for the limitation on the legislature. Regardless, the governor notes that he doesn't even like the funding of these areas.
Additionally, this constitutional argument was applied to his veto of $500,000 to fund a national board for professional teaching standards certification grant program.
As for the Department of Health portions, which had two line-item vetoes, they deal with the health care reform act program, but that's all I know. These two vetoes are based on the unconstitutionality of their inclusion.
Then there are some housing cuts that go way over my head and probably only impact New York City. Luckily, you don't have to rely on my non-explanation, as we've included all 22 line-item vetoes. The only thing is that you either need to tilt your head or your computer screen to read them...

aid to localities line veto

Handicap Spots Snow Free

Senator Jack Martins, R-Mineola, has introduced a bill (SB 4516) that would increase the penalty for dumping snow onto a handicapped parking spot.
His memorandum on this issue notes that during the 2010-2011 winter, many handicapped parking spaces became unavailable as the result of accumulating snow. He notes that local agencies issued numerous tickets to offenders that put snow onto these restricted areas, but suggests that the maximum fine of $50 for a first time offense is not a deterrent.
Under Martins law, if you "knowingly" put snow into a handicapped spot you will be subject to a $150 fine for a first offense and a fine no greater than $300 for a second offense. He does allow for for local or municipal governments to establish higher fines, but they can't exceed $250 for the first offense and $500 for the second offense.
As of Friday, there was not a companion to this proposal.

Senate Proposes to Spread Service Fee

The New York Senate is poised to address a proposal on Monday that would ease the burden of custodial parents by spreading the burden of service fees between custodial and nocustodial parents.
The bill (SB 816) from Republican Senator Ken LaValle argues that the $25 fee imposed on child support payments represents a significant burden in these economic times, so it is only fair to share the cost. His memorandum suggests that this change would be especially meaningful for single parents across the state that rely on child support payments to live.
One concern raised by Democratic Senator Liz Krueger during the committee process was that this proposal represents an unfunded mandate on local municipalities, who would now have to secure fees from two people instead of one. Counsel for the majority said that this change would actually make the collection process easier, because fees are already collected from both parents.
This bill has an Assembly companion and has been proposed in both chambers in the past, but to no avail. After being unanimously passed in committee, LaValle's bill will likely fly through the Senate, especially since Republicans are unlikely to schedule a vote they could lose.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Low-Sulfur Oil Under Attack by Senate GOP

The implementation of low-sulfur oil for home heating in New York could be delayed and weakened, as the Republican Majority in the Senate is again trying to push back the July 2012 schedule to 2014.
While in the minority, Senate Republicans voted against this initial proposal in 2010, but lost out. A month ago, as the majority, they added this proposal to their version of the budget. But after three-way negotiations and some outcry from environmental and health groups, it was not included in the final package.
Now, being sponsored by the party's #2 guy, Tom Libous, the Senate Republicans are again pushing for a delay until the summer of 2014. Not only would it delay the stricter sulfur standards, it would also relax them by over thirty times, as the maximum allowable sulfur content would go from 15 parts per million to 500 parts per million.
The memo from Libous argues that the current deadline would lead to higher prices, which has been routinely refuted by proponents of the deadline, which includes oil suppliers, like Oil Heat Manufacturers of Central & Eastern NY and the New York Oil Heating Association. “Savings would quickly outweigh the short term jump in price,” said Michael Seilback, the vice president of public policy for the American Lung Association in New York (in March), “and that’s exclusive of the health care savings.”
Additionally, the memo contends that implementation would be costly and not time sensitive, which was flatly rejected by the bill memo that created the low-sulfur guidelines.


Following the passage of a $132.5 billion budget for the current fiscal year, the Empire Center has begun documenting the rate of spending with its spend-O-meter.
Based on the budget, according to the Empire Center, the state spends $4,201 a second, $363,013,699 per day and $11,041,666,666 in a month.
E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center said, "Under this year's budget, our state government will spend more every hour than 200 typical New York families earn in a year."
Check out the Spend-O-Meter.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

NY Continues if Fed Gov't Stops

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has released a report on the ramifications to New York if the federal government fails to implement a continuing resolution by Friday at midnight. "A federal shutdown would be disruptive in the short term and damaging in the long term," he concludes.
His report notes that 126,500 full and part-time employees of the federal government who work in New York could be subject to furloughs, although a small percentage of that number are likely to remain on the job because they hold "essential" positions.
On the state level, though, New York relies on $687 million in federal funds to pay its employees.
Definitely impacted will be the state's 22 national parks, which would close on Saturday if there isn't a compromise. At the Saratoga Battlefield this will mean about 20 employees are put on leave. Regarding these 22 parks, the comptroller highlighted the fact that they generated $340 million in economic activity from non-local visitors in 2009.
Dinapoli warns that cash flow challenges in the state as the result of delayed or non-existent federal funds could result in delayed payments to contractors, municipalities and tax refunds for individuals. Regarding local municipalities and public authorities, which rely on funding for day-to-day operations, they may have to resort to temporary financing to make ends meet.
The potential of a long shutdown could be damaging for the economy of the state and local governments he concluded. "An extended shutdown could have negative economic implications for the state and its local government due to the loss of infrastructure and capital projects activities, the loss of income and sales tax revenue from furloughed workers and affected contractors, as well as the loss of tourism dollars from shuttered national parks and historic sites," Dinapoli said.